Monthly Archives: April 2014

Clonycavan Man

   

by Natasha Arnold

 

So when I see the legless leather body that is Clonycavan Man inside the glass case and my brother reads the plaque aloud about the archaeologists sifting through the peat to find vegetable oil styling the tuft of hair clinging to his head and determining that he must have been wealthy to have been able to afford it and that he was short in height and about the forensic specialists guessing he’s in his early twenties like I am and taking the dents in his skull to mean he was murdered I wonder why we burn or bury our dead instead of throwing them into bogs since all we ever want is to be immortal just like my brother says right now to Look at this blighter for feck’s sake died before Jesus Christ even happened and here we are still looking at him and my brother is right because we want to be looked at forever until the universe dies and beyond but look at all we know about Clonycavan Man who’s tiny like me and who styled his red hair like I style my red hair and we can guess only that he probably died for being rich or pretty or femme like they call me and we don’t know why he died just that he did and how and now he’s no different from a leather satchel and my brother huffs and says Feckin figures and I wonder if he’s thinking the same as I am about how Clonycavan Man could be a brown and legless me but instead he taps me on the shoulder and says I know a real bit of craic and he takes me to the Viking Ireland room where a warrior all bones just his skeleton lies in a glass case of his own in the position that they found him buried in with his dagger and his sword beside him but that’s all he is I think just bones just white just hard parts and my brother’s face reflects onto the ribcage like it’s imprisoned and the hard white bone parts don’t say anything about the dagger and sword and so I ask my brother You think he died like a real man don’t you and I don’t care what he says to me because I could travel forever on the sound waves I just made.

 

Natasha Arnold is a second-year student in Old Dominion University’s Creative Writing MFA program. She currently lives in Norfolk, Virginia. This is her first publication.

 

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4 out of 5 in 1981

by B.J. Jones  

The hotels are empty, the shops are closed, and the sand is undisturbed. A few people walk by wearing jackets. Linda gets off a bus and joins the few walkers on the beach’s boardwalk. Linda just got off her shift at the hospital where she is a nurse assigned to pediatrics.

She often comes to the beach to sit on a bench and watch the ocean. She only comes in winter when all the vacationers are gone. In winter she owns the beach.

Linda takes a book out of her purse and starts reading when a man with a red suitcase stops in front of her.

‘Excuse me miss?’ he says.

Linda looks up from her book. ‘What do you want?’

‘Sorry to disturb your reading, but I wanted to know if I could interest you in what I have in my suitcase.’

Linda puts her book down without marking her place and looks around.

The man puts the red suitcase on the ground and shows Linda his hands, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you. I’m only selling video tapes. Here look.’ He starts unzipping the red suitcase. Linda stands up but keeps watching the man. He isn’t lying. Stuffed in the red, imitation leather suitcase are video tapes. ‘Video quality is good. I can guarantee it. What kind of movies do you like? I have some nice romantic ones here.’

Linda sits back down on the bench while the man is on one knee shuffling through the video tapes. ‘I don’t like romance. What else do you have?’

I have it all miss,’ he says.

‘Wait, are those Beta? I don’t buy Beta.’

‘What? Beta is the future. VHS is going down! I predict that by the 90s everyone will be using Beta. Everyone!’

‘What makes you think that?’ she asks.

‘Because I’m also a professional psychic.’

Linda chuckles. ‘Sure you are.’

‘I specialize in sports and pop culture,’ he says.

‘Do you have any predictions today?’ she asks.

‘I’m a modern day Nostradamus. I will let you in on a few. One, a popular football player will be tried for murder. Two, the Boston Red Sox are going to win the World Series. Three, The Eagles will reunite. Four, there will be a black president. Finally, Beta will win the battle over VHS,’ he says counting with his fingers.

‘I’m sure all of that will come true one day,’ she says.

‘Thank you Linda. Good luck on your next shift at the hospital.’

‘How did you know my name?’ she asks, getting up from the bench.

The man points to his head and says, ‘I just know these things.’

Linda swiftly walks past closed stores and empty hotels with the man shouting from the bench.

‘Remember Linda. The future is Beta! The future is Beta!’  

 

B.J. Jones writes about rogue pharmacists, phantom limbed windmills, quidnuncs, Luciferian calories, amorous bowling shoes, Funkhousers, martyred coupons, Nietzschean wire hangers, invisible tomatoes, and pen clicking adversaries while living in Dubuque, IA with his wife. Some of it even gets published.    

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We Are Sure We Came From Here: Ohio vs. Munich

 

by Jon Steinhagen

 

Your father and I are seeing a lot of things we can’t pronounce. Your father thinks he can pronounce things but the people here just look at him funny and it takes a couple of tries to get what we want or we give up. He doesn’t like the breakfasts at the hotel. He likes hot things but we get continental. It’s part of the room rate. It costs extra for a hot breakfast but your father won’t spend the money and anyway we’d have to leave the hotel and we’re already eating out twice a day.

There’s a castle that from where we are looks like a toy but when you get up close you can’t see all of it at once. You go in and you pay money and they only show you a little bit of it but I suppose we wouldn’t have the time to see all of it and you know your father isn’t good with stairs. I realized the other day that empty rooms one after another no matter how historic all look the same. All there is to drink here is beer but they give you so much of it even if you order a half liter and the steins are so heavy you know me with my wrist problems. I’m bringing you home a nice big glass stein you can use to hold your leftover pocket change or you can use it to drink beer if you can drink that much.

We still haven’t found the graves and I told your father maybe he didn’t hear right but he insists and so we been to every cemetery except three. We’ve seen an awful lot of pretty headstones though. We can read the names we just can’t read what comes after the names but they’re pretty.

The desserts are something however but all that cream and know how your father loves chocolate but it’s no good for him and so he belches half the night.

Here’s a picture of your father with a stranger because of the hat. I’m in the picture too but you can’t see me because the woman who took it for us didn’t really understand and so I’m there but I’m not. So your father and I bought hats. They match. They’re much cheaper here probably because they’re common. We’re blending in.

There are a lot of churches here but we haven’t been in any only the graveyards. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for your great-great-grandparents and whoever came before them and their brothers and sisters if they had them but like I said we haven’t found them and I’m worried we made this trip for nothing.

Don’t forget Tuesday is trash day so put the cans out on Monday night and put the bricks on the lids so the raccoons can’t get at it.

That’s all I can think of. Your father says hello and would you like a hat?

 

Jon Steinhagen is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists; his play BLIZZARD ’67 was recently produced at the New York International Fringe Festival. His fiction can be found in print and online, recently in Barrelhouse, Four Ties Lit Review, and The American Reader.

 

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Lincoln, Lincoln

 

by Chad Greene

 

When I was a child, I thought like a child – thanks to the encyclopedia my parents purchased. Or, more exactly, thanks to the one volume of the encyclopedia they didn’t purchase.

See, next to the Bible on our bookshelf were 27 of the 28 volumes of Funk & Wagnalls’ New Encyclopedia. Growing up on the farm, we were poor, but my parents were believers – believers in the power of education to improve their children’s lots in life. So, the moment the checker at the grocery store handed them a free copy of Volume 1 and a full-color flyer informing them that ‘the purchase of Funk & Wagnalls’ New Encyclopedia is an excellent investment in your children’s future,’ they made up their minds to find the funds to buy the rest – one a week for the next 27 weeks.

For the next 21 weeks, they kept that promise to themselves – and to their children. But then, somewhere early in the Ss, the grocery store suffered a mysterious shortage of Volume 23. The store, my parents said, had run out before they could purchase a copy. To make up for it, they said, the store had decided to substitute Funk & WagnallsThe Presidents  a collection of brief biographies of every Commander-in-Chief from George Washington to George H.W. Bush.

Because my parents had raised me to believe, as they did, that education could empower people to escape rural poverty, I read over and over the biography of Abraham Lincoln. The sixteenth president’s comprehensive campaign of self-education, which culminated in passing the bar exam despite never having attended college – let alone law school – inspired me to strive for academic excellence.

When I was a child, I trusted my parents implicitly, so it was only years later that I started to suspect that there had been no shortage of Volume 23. When I was a teen, I was deeply disappointed – and frustrated – to discover that volume was the one that contained all the entries related to ‘sex’. But, by then, my otherwise exhaustive knowledge of the lives of presidents had developed the fatal flaw that would allow me to one day be blindsided by deep disillusionment: In my mind, as on our bookshelf, presidents and sex did not go together.

When I became a man, I thought I had put the ways of childhood behind me. Out of loyalty to Lincoln, I had registered to vote as a Republican at the age of 18, and – a few weeks after that – enrolled at the only alma mater of a Republican president that had accepted me: Whittier College.

Presidential scandals, though, had left me feeling conflicted about both of my first two adult decisions.

The Republican Party of the late 20th century, I understood, was not the Republican Party of the mid 19th century. Then, I understood, its members had been motivated by desire to create racial equality; now, I had started to suspect, they were motivated by a desire to maintain economic inequality. But first the rumors, and then the revelations, about the sexual misconduct of Democratic presidents both past and present – I went to Whittier during the Clinton Administration – repulsed me on a visceral level. Literally: Those scandals drove me away from the Democratic Party I might otherwise have embraced.

Speaking of scandals, Whittier College – of course – is the alma mater of Richard Nixon, the only man to ever resign the presidency. But its proximity to Disneyland allowed me to worship my childhood hero on a daily basis as an enthusiastic cast member at its ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln’ attraction on Main Street, USA. And ‘attraction’ was the appropriate term for it because, in a purely platonic way, I was attracted to Disney’s audio-animatronic Abraham Lincoln, which – with its noble face cast from an actual life mask of Lincoln and its dignified address compiled from his historic speeches – seemed a perfect representation of the president I had idealized and idolized since childhood.

Ironically, it was there, at the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’, that I had the unhappiest moment of my life when – more than 125 years after his assassination – I was a witness to Abraham Lincoln’s first sex scandal.

‘There’s something wrong with President Lincoln!’ shouted the mother rushing her children out of the auditorium. ‘He’s making obscene gestures! And dripping fluids!’

When we went to investigate, the rest of the cast members barely suppressed smiles. I, however, was utterly unable to hide the emotion evident on my face at that moment: horror. For, there, in front of a spectacular painting of the U.S. Capitol, was my animatronic Lincoln – his right hand spastically pawing at his crotch. As more and more of his hydraulic fluid dripped onto the stage, his shoulder and elbow were starting to smoke from the exertion. I sprinted to close the curtains embroidered with the Great Seal of the President of the United States.

‘Well, I’ll never be able to put a penny in my pocket again,’ shuddered one of my fellow cast members.

Without thinking, I punched him. There, in that shrine to presidential dignity. There, where the only passion that had pumped through my heart – until that moment – had been a religious reverence for the savior of our country. Lincoln, who had won the Civil War. Lincoln, who had reunited the house divided.

Lincoln, Lincoln.

I thought I had put the things of childhood away, but – as I inhaled the scent of Lincoln’s spilled lubricant – the childish chant of kids skipping rope consumed my mind: 

   

Lincoln, Lincoln,
I’ve been thinkin’:
What on Earth
Have you been drinkin’?
Tastes like whiskey,
Smells like wine:
Oh, my God,
It’s turpentine!
 

Strangely, it was at that moment that I had my first truly adult thought: There is no perfect person. There is always something wrong with the wiring.

 

A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, Chad Greene is an assistant professor of English at Cerritos College. Whenever he isn’t planning lessons or grading papers, he is attempting to put together a novel-in-stories tentatively titled Trips and Falls.

 

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The Long Flight

by Rhoda Greaves

They ask if you have anything to say. You look up towards us in the gallery, and I hope you can feel me there with you, holding you. I think you’re going to say something, just for me. And I’m trembling. I want you to. But I don’t want to be recognised. Not that I’d deny you. Not even here.

My aunt and uncle lent me the money for the flight, even though they thought I was crazy to come. I spent it drinking mini wines and trying not to tell the nice man in the smart grey suit next to me, why I was travelling to the States alone. My parents gave me the money last time. But made me pay it back when they found out why I’d gone.

You shake your head, and my heart falls back into line. The journalists take out their pads and scribble. And to my right she flops into her hands, weeping. An older man props an arm awkwardly around her shoulders, but instead of it soothing her, she just gets louder.

My babies,’ she wails. And as she pulls her hand from her mouth, tendrils of snot contaminate the arms of her long black jacket: she clutches herself in a hug. Pushing her silver-threaded hair back from her face, she looks towards you; her eyes ragged, her cheeks streaked with sticky black makeup. And I can’t understand what you ever saw in her.

Why aren’t you sorry?’ she shouts at you. It comes out a slur; as if she’s drunk.

Evil bastard,’ the old man says, like he’s just taken a gulp of raw sewage. Evil? I just know you as you: letter writer, lover. You’d said that if you’d been granted one final wish, it would have been to spend half an hour alone with me, so we could be like the Bible says; as one.

Your face remains impassive. You can’t hear them. But if you could?

Another woman, a younger, better kept version of her, kneels at her side and offers a tissue: she blows so hard I almost shush her.

You stand. You walk proudly like you told me you would. And I want to tell all of them: ‘That’s my husband, you murderers.’

I look away. You’d warned me it would take longer than I’d think to make the pronouncement; more than just the flick of a switch to turn the body off. There are some like her, weeping for their own loss. And others. Men, whose blood-baying eyes shine in the falsely bright lights. I wrap my scarf a little tighter to better hide my face, then glance at my watch, and wait. For their cheers.

     

– Rhoda Greaves is a PhD Creative Writing student at Birmingham City University, dog blogger, and Mum. She was awarded second place in the flash fiction competition Flash500 (2011), was longlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize (2012), and shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize (2013). Her work has been published by The View From Here and Litro Online.

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